By Fraser Cox
On Tuesday 25th, I was lucky to have the opportunity to chat with Belfast’s very own, Padraig ‘The Hammer’ McCrory. Since his debut in 2017, he has battled his way through the professional ranks, with his most notable victory thus far against Steve Collins Jr, claiming the BUI Celtic Super Middleweight title. As a proud Irishman, McCrory is never one to shirk a challenge, with Wednesday’s return to action set to be his toughest test to date.
Firstly, McCrory details the true roots of his striking boxing nickname:
“The Hammer’ comes from when I was an amateur. There were about ten of us boxing together, all from the same area. One of the guys did a weekly newsletter, so he gave us all names, and mine just stuck with me.”
Several weeks before ‘lockdown’ took hold, McCrory moved to 10(4)-0 with an unequivocal PTS triumph over Englishman, Lewis van Poetsch. Retrospectively, McCrory thinks that he is fortunate to have already boxed in 2020.
“It was smooth, he’s a real game fighter who’s been in with a lot of good guys, but it was very comfortable. I won every round and boxed well. I was due to fight again at the end of April, but it fell through because of Coronavirus. Looking back to the 1st of February, I am very happy to have had that fight. Now, I look forward to a big fight next week.”
Away from boxing, McCrory is a qualified personal trainer. During the lockdown, he was able to transform his face-to-face gymnasium-based business to an online video call platform. Juggling work and boxing leads to a rather demanding daily schedule, but McCrory believes it is hugely advantageous in enabling him to improve as an athlete.
“I’ve been working in the gym for about four years. I started off as an assistant, taking classes and just working on the gym floor. I thought I could make more of it, and got my level three personal training certificate on the week of my fight with Steve Collins Jr. The following week, I was straight into work.
I get up at 6:00, work until 10:00, then I’m in the gym for 10:30, training for 2 hours. Afterwards, I do my S&C, then work again from 17:00 until 20:00 or 21:00. It’s long days, but I definitely feel a lot fitter and better from doing it. During the lockdown, I was able to focus a lot on my conditioning, doing long runs etc. I think it’s paid off. Working and boxing is not easy, but bills need paying – I just get on with it.
If coronavirus sticks about, I think online classes are definitely something that we will see for a long time. A lot of my clients were saying that they liked getting out of bed, going downstairs and training. I prefer face-to-face, but my business has to work with what works best for people as well.
Our gyms have been back open for around 8 weeks. I finish work on Saturday, then I’m off until the next Monday. I’m taking a full week off which will be good for me; hopefully, I’ll get the win and have 4 or 5 days to myself.”
McCrory feels that he will be unfazed by the new regime of boxing behind closed doors, however, this fight against Mickey Ellison will be his first outside of Belfast.
Lewis Crocker, McCrory’s stablemate - and now WBO European Welterweight Champion - headlined MTK’s show on 26th August. ‘The Hammer’ gave ESBR his pre-fight prediction: it turned out to be quite an accurate one.
“Boxing behind closed doors will be different for everybody. This will also be my first fight outside of Belfast, and I always sell a lot of tickets. As an amateur, I’ve stayed in hotels before - not under quarantine restrictions, but I think I’ll deal with it well. My first fight was in The SSE Arena and I fought in front of about four hundred. It holds about eleven thousand, so it felt pretty empty. We’re all in the same boat, so I’m not worried.
I love fighting in Belfast. It’s a great city for boxing and is full of stars: Frampton, Conlan, Burnett. I hope there will be more shows in Belfast, and that I can be part of them.
I definitely think all-round, I’m a better fighter. I watched Ellison’s fight against Charlie Schofield who was 15-0 and was very impressed with him – he kept coming. I don’t think he’s fought anybody who can punch as hard as me. If he comes straight to me, he’ll be in a lot of trouble. He’s ranked 16th in Britain, I’m ranked 19th, so he’ll be very confident. They fancy the fight; I fancy the fight - it’s going to be interesting.
I expect to fly to Yorkshire on Sunday, we’ll be tested on Monday and then we’ll quarantine. Lewis Crocker is with my trainer at the minute, so I’ve been ticking over with a few lads from the gym and my S&C coach, too. Lewis is a Welterweight and we’ve done loads of rounds together. He’s a freak. I have sparred with Light Heavyweights and Lewis punches harder than anything. What people don’t see is his boxing ability and it’s scary. I think Louis Greene will bring the best out of Crocker and Crocker will win by late stoppage.”
As an avid follower himself, McCrory has enjoyed observing the revival of boxing. He was particularly excited to see Carl Frampton, who hopes to fight Jamel Herring next, in a bid to achieve world champion status in a 3rd weight class.
“I’ve watched nearly all the shows since boxing’s been underway again and have been really impressed by them. It was good to see my favourite fighter, Frampton, return to the ring. I’ve always backed Carl. Jamel Herring is a big Southpaw and he’s very good. Carl has been in with the best in the world; he beat Leo Santa Cruz, probably his biggest win. I’ve been to a lot of his fights in Belfast, he’s a class act. I think Carl has the tools to beat Herring and I’ll be cheering him on. When Carl last fought in America, Herring got in the ring after; it looked like there was a difference of about 4 weight classes between them. Herring has slimmed down since then though. Carl punches hard, he’s a good body puncher and, with the height difference, it’s a very interesting fight. If anybody can do it, it’s Frampton.”
Having parted company with his long-term trainer Ray Ginley, McCrory is now under the guidance of Dee Walsh and Dan Anderson. After an extensive training camp, ‘The Hammer’ feels that he is in the shape of his life, ahead of his 11th professional outing.
“I was with Ray Ginley for my first 10 fights – all very successful. Ray has recently started his own business and it was a struggle for him and me to fit in training times. I think the change with Dee Walsh and Dan Anderson has come at the right time for me. Ray and I left on very good terms and we still speak, so there are no hard feelings. Now, we have a full team behind us - Lewis Crocker, Ruairi Dalton, Owen O’Neill - all pro fighters and also getting ready for fights. The move was good; I’ve been with Dee and Daren for 4 months, so I’ve had plenty of time with them and lots of sparring, too. I’m in a very good place for next week’s fight.
Dan’s a top-class S&C coach. This is the first camp where I’ve had proper strength and conditioning for a full 4 months. All my run times are faster, all my numbers are higher with my lifts - I’m definitely in the best shape I’ve ever been. Dee and I boxed in the same club as amateurs for years, so we’ve always had similar styles. Dee had eleven pro fights and he was a very steady fighter. His style compliments my style, so, we’ve gelled well.
If we get the win on Wednesday, we’ll be looking towards a ranking European title or, if the chance comes, a British title. I’m hoping that a win will put me close to the top 10 in Britain. It’s uncertain times, but we are definitely looking for a title after this.”
The Middle and Super Middleweight divisions are bursting with unbelievably talented fighters. McCrory firmly believes that there is undoubtedly one man at the top of the food chain. He also dissects the match-up between Billy Joe Saunders and Callum Smith.
“Canelo Álvarez is the guy. I really like Caleb Plant’s style, but I think the superstar of them all is Canelo. In the UK, it’s hard to look past Callum Smith. He’s a massive puncher, massive for the weight and a down-to-earth guy.
Billy Joe Saunders is a star in his own right and, if he wasn’t ready for the Canelo fight, I think it was the right decision not to rush it.
Stylistically, Billy Joe would have the best chance of beating Canelo, because he’s very slippery. It looks like Canelo has a chin of granite, so, in terms of Smith being a big puncher, I don’t think it’ll affect Canelo.
I’m a massive Callum Smith fan - he’s a great fighter. I don’t think Billy Joe has the Jon Ryder style, and because he doesn’t, Smith is tall, he can box him, and he punches hard. So, if I had to pick one, it would be Callum Smith.”
When he is not working or boxing, McCrory likes to spend as much time as possible with his family. He casts his mind back to some of the defining moments in his life and career so far.
“I used to love playing football and Gaelic football. I love all sports. I will sit and watch golf, darts and football.
Outside of sports, I have a young family who are my life at the minute.
I didn’t start boxing until I was fourteen. I was a very late developer with all sports. I wasn’t good at football until I was 15, Gaelic was the same. When I was younger, I was a bit short and fat. I stopped boxing for 4 years and, in that time, I focused on football, which I played to a decent standard in Ireland.
Stopping boxing for four years is a massive regret. There was no real reason, just lack of motivation and not wanting to fight. I stopped at 21 or 22 and came back at about 26.
Since turning pro, the big turning point was when I knocked out a guy called Manny Bique. It was a massive knockout and, the day after, MTK signed me. Since then I’ve boxed on some big events, had a lot of interviews and got people talking.”